Deep Reading as Counterculture – Revisited

by: Bryan Hellkamp

After reading many of the comments from the previous blog post about deep reading as counterculture, I felt many people did not fully understand the concept as a whole. The two ideas of deep reading and counterculture are intertwined. There is no one without the other, and so in order to experience one, we must be willing to participate in the other. On page 29 of Chapter Two in Waxler and Hall’s book Transforming Literacy (2011), they state, “for us, deep reading is about slowing down, but it is also about creating your own pace and environment for thinking. It is about gaining focus while working within a context; and it is about moving forward and shaping a future.” I feel this quote is meaningful. This idea proves in order to participate in deep reading as a counterculture we need to purposefully slow down, be aware of, and be present for the activity we are about to partake in, and, finally, make meaning out of it. When people state that deep reading is now more of a challenge than ever because the technological distractions or the pressures of daily life, people should recognize that deep reading IS a kind of counterculture. If we want to experience deep reading we must be aware of, and prepared to re-prioritize, the way we live our daily lives.


If we look further into deep reading as a concept we can say that it is the moment when you are reading and you forget you are doing it; instead you are experiencing. The book is no longer black ink on a white sheet, but becomes what you and the author collaboratively make it. You are no longer inside your house, at the bus station, or in the doctor’s office waiting room. You have departed from your surroundings and are now enveloped inside the book’s environment. Waxler and Hall make the argument that “deep readers constantly move from the story being read to their own self, and they create meaning in the gaps which they experience in that movement.” Deep reading is an experience that stays with you after you have finished reading and allows you the opportunity to reflect upon yourself and grow as a human, using experiences otherwise unimaginable or unattainable to you.


Those that have experienced deep reading understand how this can effect us and what repercussions, positive and negative, it can have on our lives. For those that insist that deep reading is no longer a viable option in our digital technological age with the “hustle bustle” mentality of the United States cannot forget the concept of counterculture. This idea has an immeasurable amount of definitions, but, in this regard, for the connection with deep reading it is simply living life in an alternative method to the masses. Today’s mainstream culture has us focused on productivity, multi-tasking, and instant gratification. We are fast-paced and always living life and making decisions based on the next moment as opposed to the present moment. You participate in counterculture every time you fight that insatiable urge to check your Facebook feed, every hour on the hour, when you wake up at 5am to get to the gym because it’s the only opportunity you’ll have throughout the day, or in this case, you pick up a book and dedicate time to lose yourself inside it.

There will always be an excuse, a reason, or an opportunity to not do something. We as a society need to realize that we are the masters of ourselves, and while we may have numerous uncontrollable aspects of our life, we do have some that we can and should control. So live in the moment, live for your friends, your family, and for yourself. Life is what we make of it, and to get the most out of it we must be mindful to prioritize what is truly important to us within it and modify accordingly.




Bryan Hellkamp is currently pursuing an MAT in History at UMass Dartmouth. He received his Bachelor’s degree from UMass Dartmouth in Political Science. He is very interested in the educational system as a whole, and would like to continue his education past the MAT in order to be involved with changing and adapting the system to better accommodate our students’ needs in this current technological age of instant information. He can be reached for comment here.


2 thoughts on “Deep Reading as Counterculture – Revisited

  1. Bryan,
    Excellent post. You explained the relationship between deep reading and personal insight very clearly. I, as I’m sure many other readers, do appreciate your meaningful views.

    Michael Sollars

  2. Thanks, Bryan. I am glad you are thinking about this relationship between “deep reading” and “counter-culture.” I agree that reading literary narrative , reflecting on that narrative, discussing that narrative with others, and so on help us to preserve and explore “the interior self.” And, in so far as “in deep is far out,” such activity should also help deepen connections with the world as well.

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